An innocently named company we’ll simply call LLC runs a not so innocent business. It sells pornographic movies, lingerie, and other sexually themed products. While this line of work is not illegal in New Jersey, certain requirements govern such businesses.
For instance, under New Jersey law, it is illegal to run a sex shop within 1,000 feet of a school, religious institution, or residence. In addition, the building must be surrounded by a 50 foot “buffer” zone. This is to make it more difficult to see inside the building. Presumably, this protects the privacy of the customers, and the innocence of any unsuspecting passers-by. LLC’s problem was that its building did not satisfy the “buffer” requirement.
Rather than move to a new building, LLC tried to challenge the law itself. It claimed the law was an unconstitutional restriction of freedom of speech. LLC also argued that it should be excused from the law, because the layout of the building it leased made creating such a buffer zone impossible.
In court, the town presented evidence of several other sites that LLC could move to. These would easily satisfy the buffer requirement. But LLC claimed that they could not afford to move.
Alas, a Morris County judge rejected LLC’s argument. A law does not become unconstitutional simply because a particular party can’t afford to comply with reasonable restrictions. Unless LLC can afford to appeal further, it looks like it will have to find another line of work.
Free speech has its limits. And when you choose to run a sex shop, you’re likely to encounter some of those limits. I’d say LLC’s owners made their bed, and now they must sleep in it.
But maybe that’s a poor choice of words.